Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Eastern Orthodox Theology

Eastern Orthodox Theology Image
The pagan outer court circle I run in Memphis, Tennessee, where I train people to practice the Craft, is often as much of a learning experience for me as it is a teaching experience. This past full moon is certainly no exception. An experiment that has not even launched yet led to a moment of insight, and an understanding of a particularly strong stance I take on my position as priestess and mentor.

I often query the people in my circle about their experience, and am always taking the time to make sure that they feel they are getting sufficient amounts of challenging new material and techniques in my circles, that they are walking away from each and every circle feeling as if they have learned something new, and grown in some way. If that is not the case, I need to know, because otherwise I'd just be providing a silly little show and dance. In this world of insta-witches and paperback priestesses, I have always thought the value of one-on-one training gives so much more depth to one's practice. As one who has benefited from a strong, solid coven training experience, I know the importance of passing that quality of mentoring along.

In my Catholic upbringing, at a young and tender age somewhere in my early teens, I remember observing in the church, "The clergy of this church says they're here to bring you closer to God. However, all everyone here does is follow and do, play along with the rituals at hand, and repeat the motions. I don't see how this is getting anyone closer to God. If these people actually did get you close to God, they'd be out of a job!" That was part of my first schism with organized religion that led me eventually to finding the art, science, and spirituality of witchcraft.

As a result of my realization of the spiritual divisiveness that is brought about by those people who profess to reveal the will of the gods to you, I vowed never to do the same. I would rather see people find their connection with that which is divine than do anything to separate them from it, including handing it out and interpreting for them. When a seeker expects someone else to deliver the will and knowledge of the divine from on high, that seeker may easily, out of laziness or out of the expectations of religion that he or she may have grown up with (this is like it was in the church we grew up in, so the format is familiar and comfortable), not bother to find that closeness herself. If I cater to those kinds of attitudes, then I will have done what I accused the clergy of the church of so many years back.

This brings me back to the seekers in my own circle. We recently decided to meet twice a month, by the new and full moons, instead of our usual once a month meetings. I did some thinking about it, and I decided that the new moons (because new moons, after all, are the best time to start something new) would be "open altar night." We talked of the importance of taking the practice of the Craft and interpreting it in ways that are meaningful to each individual witch. I expressed the importance of innovation, and most importantly, of finding one's own connections to the gods. The full moons would be done in the same way as always, with our ritual that we use every time and have grown to know and love, because while innovation is important, so is having a solid foundation of tradition upon which to build one's castles. A balance of new and old, innovative and traditional, the past and the future helps keep one ever evolving without losing the strength and stability that comes from a deep knowledge of one's roots.

As a matter of course, Onix and I specifically never speak of prayer or worship to any specific gods or goddesses, nor we do not hand down information from on high. Our altar statues were specifically chosen because they are glorious images of male and female, while not being specific to any one person's set of beliefs. While we insist that while we cannot tell anyone which gods they should commune with, we also stress that it is important to find those gods with whom one can have a connection. It's not for us to tell you how or who you should find a connection with, only to let you know that from personal experience, finding that can be a very powerful addition to your life. We have our own connections with our own gods, and encourage our seekers to find their own connections with their own gods.

I recently read this brutal, yet articulate assault on religion at Greta Christina's blog. In it, she explains a lot of the horrors that religion has done. If you think Paganism is immune to any of these, think again. In fact, I've already seen it happen, on a small scale, multiple times. I have seen pagan clergy encourage non-thinking and blind following. I have seen Pagan clergy incite very small scale wars, but wars all the same. I have seen pagan clergy abuse their authority in a ridiculous amount of ways, from demanding sexual favors from their followers to ostracizing and shunning people whose ideas don't fit their orthodoxy. I've seen it up close and personal and let me tell you, it's ugly. The concept of clergy has come to confer a certain amount of not just authority, but authoritarianism. It puts the person in this deliciously sweet beyond-criticism, beyond-questioning place. For those clergy who claim to speak on behalf of the gods or goddesses, it suggests that they are beyond question and reproach. After all, to question them is to question the will of a divine being. I respectfully argue to Greta that it is not the beliefs, but the claiming of authority over one another because of these beliefs have made religion of all kinds reprehensibly dangerous to the seeking of true wisdom.

In our practice of the Craft, this is abhorrent, and it is why we do not say that our leaders have any special divine grace. We say in our circle that we are all our own priests or priestesses, and those of us who have more experience help those of us who have less experience find ways to explore and develop our own connections with the gods. Our degrees that we earn reflect time spent learning, growing and developing in our practice of the Craft, experiences we have had and milestones we have passed. The more experienced help create an environment in which the less experienced can use as a starting point, a foundation. But ultimately, one of the quests for those in our circle is to be able to learn and know ways to come to a personal gnosis of the divine. We take the middleman of clergy out of the circle, and instead seek ways to experience the divine each in our own way. A witch is no follower and seeks her own way, but she is smart enough to listen to the guidance of those who have walked the path before her.

The new moon is a time and a place for creating a stage in a safe place among friends in which we can all be priests and priestesses to one another, each sharing our own perceptions, inspirations and visions of the divine with one another. We create ceremonies not with the intent of pushing a belief system or claiming an authority, but with the intent of expressing the beautiful and meaningful ways in which the gods have touched our own spirits. Ceremony in our circles is a form of art, a way to rise above mundane consciousness and to truly be in a space in the ether where all magic exists. We love to bask in the unique and brilliant visions of one another.

To achieve this kind of mutual communion with the divine, we reject the middleman. We gather in our circle to grow and learn together.

On Teaching

" Kahlil Gibran"

No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.

The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.

If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.

The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.

The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.

And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.

For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.

And even as each one of you stands alone in God's knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.

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Saturday, 15 September 2007

First Annual Intl Buddhist Nuns Day

First Annual Intl Buddhist Nuns Day Image
Participate in the FIRST ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL BHIKKHUNI DAY: September 17, 2011


This day celebrates our spiritual legacy. It is a chance to learn about the history of prominent Buddhist women, and it is also an opportunity to raise funds to support nuns ("bhikkhunis").

HOW do we accomplish these things? We simply gather in a circle, meditate together, and talk about the women we love and admire. The gathering can take place anywhere -- in a temple, center, or your living room or backyard.


AfB's home page (BHIKKHUNI.NET) has Dharma talks and downloadable handouts which can be printed and used to lead group discussions. Feel free to adapt and revise the materials in ways that make them more meaningful to individual communities.

MAHAJAPATI TELLS HER STORYExcerpt from"I can never forget the moment I was told [my son] Siddhartha had left the palace. At first I could not believe it. I was in shock. It was as though time had stopped. The sobbing Yasodhara [his wife] had to repeat herself over and over until I could accept that Siddhartha was serious about his leave taking. My son, my handsome, good hearted son was gone. I never thought of him as my stepson, or even nephew. He was my son. I nursed him. I mothered him. He was my boy. Sometimes his leaving made sense, other times it remained incomprehensible. It upset me that he was in turmoil yet could not confide in me. When did this breach between us happen? How did I fail to notice that Siddhartha was no longer a part of us? But, upon reflection, I began recalling comments he had made and subtle ways he revealed a growing disenchantment with our way of life. In hindsight, I could point to moments that foretold his departure."

* GROUP USE: her story as the first Buddhist nun in history can be printed and passed around a circle. Each person can read a paragraph or so in the midst of deep listening, opening the floor to sharing comments and reactions. A list of questions appears at the end of the narrative, making it easy for anyone to facilitate a conversation about the remarkable founder of the Bhikkhuni Sangha".


Excerpt from

"What woman in your life was your first spiritual teacher? What woman brought out the best in you? It could be your mother or could be another woman, a grandmother, an aunt, older sister, or teacher. Can you tell a story or two about her which captures her personality and conveys how she touched your life and the lives of others? Were there other women who impacted your spiritual development as well? If so, who are they and how were they pivotal? Mahapajapati advocated for the vulnerable women who fell under her protection. Has any compassionate, strong woman been an advocate for you, protected you? If so, how? Perhaps the people who mothered and nourished you were men -- your father, grandfather, brother or uncle? Can you speak about their kindness, tenderness, love, and belief in you?"


Contact Susan Pembroke to share news of participation. She is happy to answer any questions. Use FIRSTGIVING to raise funds for this meditation pledge-a-thon. I'm delighted to help anyone create his or her own Firstgiving page. With a page for your team, ask family and friends to support your day of honoring women spiritual leaders. Even 10-20 people who sponsor this day of meditating and pledge $5 to $25 can produce great good, with hundreds of people joining the effort, connecting us all on this sacred day.

Let us know which nuns' abbey ("bhikkhuni vihara") should receive your pledges. What is raised will be disbursed to nuns. This is NOT a fundraiser for the Alliance for Bhikkhunis.

TEMPLES AND CENTERSInternational Bhikkhuni Day can be an annual fundraiser for temples or centers. Let's brainstorm ways to help raise funds following the meditation pledge-a-thon through silent auctions, arts and crafts sales, admission to a dinner and film, as well as other ideas that can be translated into enjoyable community-building and fundraising events.

Every September is for honoring female spiritual luminaries and chronicling their stories. We vow to protect women monastics and their essential role in preserving the Dharma. Telling their stories is an indispensable part of accomplishing these goals.

by Susan Pembroke

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Massive 2600 Year Old Buddhist Monastery

Massive 2600 Year Old Buddhist Monastery Image
Buddha statues inside ancient temple in Mes Aynak, Afghanistan. This archaeological site is located at the world's second-largest unexploited copper mine in Logar province. China Metallurgical Group Corp. will destroy it in three years.

MES AYNAK, Afghanistan - It was another day on the rocky hillside, as archaeologists and laborers dug out statues of Buddha and excavated a sprawling 2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery. A Chinese woman in slacks, carrying an umbrella against the Afghan sun, politely inquired about their progress.

She had more than a passing interest. The woman represents a Chinese company eager to develop the world's second-biggest unexploited copper mine, lying beneath the ruins.The mine is the centerpiece of China's drive to invest in Afghanistan, a country trying to get its economy off the ground while still mired in war. Beijing's $3.5 billion stake in the mine -- the largest foreign investment in Afghanistan by far -- gets its foot in the door for future deals to exploit Afghanistan's largely untapped mineral wealth, including iron, gold and cobalt. The Afghan government stands to reap a potential $1.2 billion a year in revenues from the mine, as well as the creation of much-needed jobs.

World's largest Buddha, now demolished, Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

Bamiyan Buddha, Afghanistan

The basics are simple; the modern situation is dire. Buddhism is presumed to be 2,600 years old. (People have been rounding down to 2,500 for more than a century). There was no time for Buddhism to be born, move west along the trade routes, and become established in a far off hinterland (GANDHARA) of the Indian empire. Instead, that area recognized its native famous native son, even though he launched his teaching, the Dharma, far to the east near the greatest holy city of that time, Varanasi. It is comparable to a young person from Hicksville heading to Hollywood to pursue a music career. As that person's fame spreads, the ones to make the biggest deal out of it are those in his home state.

What the startling archeological find at Mes Aynak reveals is a full monastic temple complex ("vihara"), with massive Buddha statues. They must have taken centuries to develop as art forms in the Gandharan style -- always assumed to be a later Grecian metamorphosis from earlier Asian examples, which now seems to be turned around -- to say nothing of how long they took to construct.

It is well known that the Buddha discouraged the making of idols, resisting the tendency of people to place emphasis on him as a person. Instead, he redirected attention at the timeless liberating Dharma. The Dharma -- that is, "realization" of the Dharma, enlightenment -- was symbolized by a wheel, a Bodhi tree, "stupas" (encasing the relics and funerary remains of enlightened individuals), the swastika, and other symbols.

Only later were depictions of the Buddha's body and image allowed to develop and encouraged as reminders of the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and "Sangha" (in this case, NOBLE disciples).

"Photo" of the Buddha, appearing Central Asian (Indo-Iranian)

"Noble" is a key term. It is thought to signify warrior ("kshatriya") caste status, out of which the Buddha and many of his disciples emerged. The Buddha did not support the Brahminical/Vedic caste system. But in far off Kapilavastu where he grew up, the nobles (warrior or ruling caste) were in conflict for supremacy with the brahmins (priestly or educated class).

Brahmins eventually ascended to the top of the hierarchy by serving as advisers to rulers. The educated class does not rule directly by force as do royals. It rules by using rulers as puppets hamstrung and utterly dependent on ministers, advisers, planners, functionaries, and operatives.

Map of ancient trade routes from Alexandria, Egypt to Indian centers of learning.

The Buddha changed the meaning of "noble" and even the term "brahmin." He emphasized that both meant superior in terms of virtue, worthiness, and spiritually accomplishment. This does not happen by birth but by one's actions (karma). Caste status is set in stone by birth. Deeds undertaken now, rather than results of former actions enjoyed at birth, allow anyone, whatever their circumstances, to become ennobled and worthy of salutations, gifts, reverence, and deference.

Eventually there were many "Alexandrias" in Greater India.

Another word for "noble" is aryan, a much maligned term that originally meant something as basic as Iranian. The Buddha was an ARYA", "a noble one, not in the later sense of being enlightened, virtuous, and worthy of honors. He was literally an "arya" because he had been born in the aryan land, on the frontiers of the prosperous India of that time.

* This was in fact a decline of India's greatness, which had come in the time of MOHENJO-DARO and HARAPPA, massive, technologically advanced societies with extraterrestrial contact ("devas"), which were eventually obliterated by nuclear arms and natural disasters, not the least of which was the drying up of great rivers. The Vedas, or Knowledge Books (as distinct from "aveda "or "avidya" which mean "ignorance") record the progress of the INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION (later pronounced "Hindu" by British surveyors referring to the amazing diversity of "religious" beliefs of India all taken under a single term) and the many types of beings that visited, inhabited, and set up great cities around the Earth's "cradle of civilization").

He was a princely foreigner from the west who came to Magadha, India. He crossed a oddly unnamed river defining the limits of the land of his father's influence and came to the prosperous area of India, the largest and most vibrant cities in those times, in search of a guru.

There was bustling trade and interaction with his own homeland. They shared a language (Magadhi, or Prakrit, a form of Sanskrit-Pali, Pali being the simplification of the scholarly language that was never in popular use but rather reserved for the educated elite brahmins), perhaps not a dialect. But it was close enough the Buddha and others from the "Land of the Shakyas" were able to travel freely and adapt seamlessly.

The land back then was divided into "mahajanapadas" (footholds of clans or tribes or extended ruling families). These great territories were constantly in dispute, growing, and being taken over. Sixteen are spoken of as being relatively stable. The Shakyas's "kingdom" was crushed and overtaken in the Buddha's own lifetime. As much as he attempted to intervene and keep the peace between it and a related neighboring group, the Shakyas were slaughtered.


Although he did not know until it happened -- in his efforts to intervene he realized it was futile and searched for the reason, finding it in a case of collective karma stemming from the spiteful poisoning of a river killing many fish in the ancient past -- had he stayed as a royal, he and many of the most famous Buddhist monks, to whom he was related, would have met the same fate.

Everything in the sutras suggests a foreigner of royal demeanor, much loved, admired for his tact and compassion and honored for his wisdom and spiritual accomplishments. The Buddha was not from nearby Nepal. Travel was widespread, and diminished over time as people became parochial. Because we assume we are at the apex of civilization, we think that however it is now, it is at least better than it was in the past.

But time and epochs of civilization are cyclical, rising, achieving greatness beyond our comprehension, and falling away. The past is always spoken of as a Golden Age, not the present. The future will worsen before there is again another Golden Age. The time between these cycles may be in the thousands of years or aeons. It is confounded by the fact that there are cycles within a cycle, and different locations are at different stages, and all of this is happening simultaneously.

THE ARTThe art is even more telling. We make images in our own likeness as time passes, moving away from the origins. However, using Burmese art as just one example, dark skinned South Asians depict the unknown early life of the Buddha with very Central Asian (Iranian, Persian, Afghan) characteristics and accents. There could be other reasons for this, but the tendency would have been to simply use royal Burmese details that locals would have understood.


THE PROBLEMThe problem is not the history. That will straighten itself out in time as people eventually come around to the truth. The problem is China. Formerly a Buddhist empire, now a Communist-Capitalist and officially atheist but promoting Roman-style Catholicism superpower, it now is all about money. It is not satisfied to have its main debtor-nation, the USA, attempting to pay off its debt in large shipments of Ameros or even a New World Currency.

It's interested in exploiting resources in second and third world nations, such as Afghanistan. It is not about to stand by and watch America and Russia divvy up the goods (war booty). The Chinese government-backed China Metallurgical corporation has gone in and forged its own contracts with the Afghan government to exploit the second largest copper mine in the world.

Unfortunately, in ancient times, temples were usually built near mines to have the material at hand for the construction of precious idols and artifacts. This is the case with Mes Aynak in the Logar province, Afghanistan (formerly Gandhara, India). The discovery of one of the largest and oldest Buddhist monasteries in the world is not about to stop atheist/Communist/Catholic China.

They have given war-torn Afghani archeologists three years to excavate before the site is demolished and the copper is plundered. (And where there's copper, there's gold as well). Afghani archeologists with their extremely limited resources and funding -- and Islamic government in no way interested in promoting Buddhism, Buddhist tourism, or revealing its own Buddhist past -- in return say three years is not even long enough to document and describe the discoveries.

INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATIONHow could the past have been more glorious than the present? During 4300-3200 BCE of the copper age (chalcolithic period), the Indus Valley Civilization area shows ceramic similarities with southern Turkmenistan and northern Iran, which suggest considerable mobility and trade. During the Early Harappan period (about 3200-2600 BCE), similarities in pottery, seals, figurines, ornaments, and so on, document-intensive caravan trade with Central Asia and the Iranian plateau. [Ref.] Judging from the dispersal of Indus civilization artifacts, the trade networks, economically, integrated a HUGE area, including portions of Afghanistan, the coastal regions of Persia (Iran), northern and western India, and Mesopotamia.

by Heidi Vogt

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Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Introduction To Buddhism Los Angeles Class

Introduction To Buddhism Los Angeles Class Image
Pasadena's Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara (LABUDDHISTVIHARA.ORG) serves everyone who desires a basic understanding of the Buddha's Teachings with educational and training programs. In addition to regular walking and sitting meditation (FREE, Tuesdays and Saturdays at 7:00 pm), a new short-term course is offered to show how practice applies to theory.

Course Description

Discourses (sutras) of the Buddha contained in the Pali canon serve as the primary source of study. They represent the original Teachings of the historical Buddha. The significance of Buddhism as a system of thought that revolutionized first India then the world will be studied.

The innovative features of Buddhism in comparison with existing systems will be considered with a focus on concepts of truth and knowledge, the Four Noble Truths, Dependent Arising, psychology, mind, meditation and spiritual potential, ethical values, the nature of the political and social order, and finally the place of rituals and forms of reverence in Buddhism.

* COURSE: "Introduction to Buddhism"
* FEE: Donations welcome for maintenance and expansion of Temple programs for the well being of many.
* DATES: 8 Tuesdays starting March 30, 2010, 8:00-9:00 pm
* LOCATION: 920 N. Summit Ave. (at Mountain, east of Fair Oaks), Pasadena, (626) 797-6144
* INSTRUCTOR: Ven. K. Chandananda former lecturer in Buddhist Studies at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, BA (with Honors) in Buddhist Philosophy and Pali * TOPICS: (Week 1) pre-Buddhist Indian social and religious background, (2) Buddha and the emergence of Buddhism, (3) Buddhist literature, (4-5) Fundamentals of Buddhism as the Four Noble Truths, (6) Basics of Buddhist Psychology, (7) Theory of Karma and Rebirth, (8) Introduction to Meditation
* RECOMMENDED READINGS: "What the Buddha Taught" (Walpola Rahula), "An Introduction to Buddhism" (Peter Harvey)

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Friday, 7 September 2007

The Boy Who Played On The Buddhas Of Bamiyan

The Boy Who Played On The Buddhas Of Bamiyan Image
The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan (Phil Grabsky, Grossbritannien, 2004)

The real Kapilavastu, where the buddha-to-be grew up, was likely not Nepal but Bamiyan, Afghanistan at the foothills of the Himalayan range -- or some such location in Baluchistan (Iran/Afghanistan/Pakistan), Central Asia, the ancient frontier of India.

This may seem odd, but Siddhartha was fair (golden), blue eyed, tall, and came from the west to India proper, where he became the Buddha in Bihar state and began teaching near Varanasi. The oldest Buddhist monastery discovered to date is 2,600-year-old Mes Aynak, Afghanistan, where so many of his family members (the Shakyans) might have gone to practice after ordaining.

The Buddha's father, King Suddhodana, gained faith when the Buddha visited seven years after leaving and, close to his death, became enlightened with the Buddha's help. His mother, Maha Prajapati Gotami, became the first Buddhist nun in history and also became enlightened. Many Shakyans such as Yasodhara (his wife), Rahula (his son), Ananda, Nanda, Sundari Nanda, Devadatta (his half-siblings often called cousins), Anuruddha, Kimbila... followed the Buddha and the Dharma and became part of the Sangha.

In this German film, a family struggles for survival amid the rubble of the Buddha statues of Bamiyan -- after their destruction by the CIA-backed Mujahadeen. Who were the Mujahadeen? Afghan tribal warlords? No, there were no such thing. Afghan and Pashtun culture have no history of such things -- even though that is the propaganda we are fed daily to justify America's most expensive, longest running, and most opaque war.

The Mujahadeen -- as well as Al Qaeda and the CIA's own Osama bin Laden -- were outsiders, criminals, released convicts (brought in from neighboring Islamic countries such as Pakistan) who were being encouraged to fight Russia in defense of Afghanistan with the secret help and military backing of the United States. See for the sordid details by American scholars Fitzgerald Charlie Wilson's War featuring Tom Hanks. Blame the mess on a Texas Congressman. Blame it on a 6' 6" tall asuran billionaire cave-dwelling warlord and 9/11 mastermind. Blame anyone but our CIA or Pentagon.

But it all ties together the inscrutable range of topics regularly covered by Wisdom Quarterly, which must strike some readers as odd:

Afghanistan, Buddhism, extraterrestrials (and UFOs), giants or "titans," CIA abuses, 1984, US propaganda, war, Islam, Zoroastrianism, our military-industrial complex, Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 false flag operation, forbidden archeology, and endless government deception. It matters why our government (both elected and secret) actually fights wars as one of the most violent empires trying to rule the planet. Peace is hardly sustainable in the midst of deception. But when truth is found then peace comes quite naturally.

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Tuesday, 4 September 2007

The Buddha And His Brother In Space

The Buddha And His Brother In Space Image
Greco-Buddhist bas relief of Nanda leaving his bride-to-be and the throne to become a monastic and follow the Buddha (British Museum).

A TRIP TO PARADISE, LIKE A DICKEN'S CAROL*NANDA, the Buddha's brother [both sons of King Suddhodana by separate mothers, who were sisters**], was overjoyed. He was to be crowned king of Kapilavatthu the next day. Moroever, he was getting married to his childhood love, Janapada Kalyani [the undisputed "beauty of the land"]. He was to move into a new palace.

All three events were to take place the following morning. He found himself daydreaming. Just then the Buddha and many monastics, who had finished their midday meal ("dana") at the palace of King Suddhodana, rose up to go back to the temple.

Nanda as a groom and heir of the kingdom had much work to do. But just as he got up to pay his respects, the Buddha handed him his bowl. Nanda felt very proud and honored to carry the Buddha's bowl thinking he would walk him to the door.

The Buddha reached the stairs. And Nanda expected him to take back his bowl. But he didn't. So he walked respectfully and quietly behind him, and the other monks followed. The Buddha came to the bottom of the stairs. Nanda thought, now, certainly the Buddha will take the bowl. But he didn't. They continued through the courtyard toward the outer gate. And still Nanda followed silently, his head bowed.

Seeing Nanda among the Buddha's retinue, Janapada Kalyani came out onto the balcony. She was a glistening beauty, her wet hair loose and falling past her shoulders. She was still holding a comb as she noticed Nanda carrying the Buddha's bowl. She called out, "Dear Nanda, return to me quickly."

Nanda became uneasy and troubled, but he could not bring himself to say anything about it to the Buddha. He followed until they reached the monastery. Just as he was ready to set the bowl down and race back to Kalyani, the Buddha turned and saw him standing there with the bowl in his hands, so he gently asked: "Nanda, would you like to be ordained as a monk?"

Although Kalyani's words were still ringing in his ears, he could not bring himself to refuse Buddha's kind offer. He found himself answering, "Yes, venerable sir."

Nanda's hair was shaved. In place of his royal clothing, he was given ascetic robes. Yet within, the longing for gorgeous Kalyani and the pleasures and royal comforts he was about to inherit pricked him. Although he tried to behave like a monastic, he failed. He could neither meditate nor concentrate on learning the Dharma.

So he determined, "I'll leave this monastic life and return to the palace!" When the other monks heard this, they reported it to the Buddha.

The Buddha called for him and asked, "Nanda, is it true that you want to disrobe?" Nanda answered, "Yes, venerable sir. Why?" the Buddha asked.

"Venerable sir," Nanda explained, "I accepted these robes because you asked me. Out of respect for you, I could not refuse them. But Janapada Kalyani's beautiful figure as she came out onto the balcony combing her wet hair and her inviting words, 'Dear Nanda, return to me quickly' are things I cannot get out of my mind. So I am returning to her and the palace to become ruler of the land."

Then out of great compassion the Buddha asked, "Nanda, do you think that Janapada Kalyani is beautiful?" Nanda immediately replied, "Yes, venerable sir! I have been in love with her all my life."

"Then you may be interested in seeing this," the Buddha said as he invited Nanda on a journey into space.

Nanda held the Buddha's robe, and by use of supernormal powers, immediately traveled over the Earth on the way to a "deva" world named TAVATIMSA. Along the way, they passed a burned field where a lonesome female monkey with a burned nose, ears, and tail was sitting on a charred tree stump.

When they appeared in the Tavatimsa spaceport, Sakka, the chief commander there, was seated in a great command station. Impossibly beautiful maidens (heavenly "nymphs, devis, apsaras, gandharvis") were busily preparing and polishing a glimmering white "mansion" (platform or spacecraft).

In all his life Nanda had never seen or even imagined such beauty. He stood beside himself staring. But he managed to ask the maidens the name of the owner of the platform they were preparing. "Nanda," they answered.

"But Nanda lives on Earth," Nanda replied in astonishment. "Yes," the maidens smiled, "but after that he'll come here."

"Did you hear that?" Nanda asked the Buddha. "They say it's for me."

Out of great compassion, the Buddha asked: "Nanda, do think these maidens are beautiful?"

Nanda immediately replied, "Yes, venerable sir! I have been in love with them from the moment I saw them."

"What about Janapada Kalyani?" the Buddha asked.

"Sir," Nanda explained, "Janapada Kalyani can't compare to these beauties. She does not possess a fraction of the beauty they do. Why, compared to these maidens, Janapada Kalyani seems to me like that burned out monkey."

"Well," the Buddha replied, "if you wish to return to this world and have these maidens, I can tell you how to inherit them."

"How," Nanda exclaimed, "how? It is by the results of karma in practicing the Dharma and meditating." Nanda was ready to return to Earth and begin meditating and striving in earnest. He agreed to the bargain.

He took hold of the Buddha's robe, and they descended past the burned out field and into the bowels of the Earth. They came upon two subterranean monsters who were preparing to boil oil in a large cauldron over an open fire. Terrified, Nanda asked, "Friends, what are you doing?"

"What's it to you?" one snapped. The other answered, "If you must know, this is for Nanda!" Nanda trembled as he said, "But Nanda lives on Earth, and afterward he is to be reborn in the celestial port of Tavatimsa."

"Yes, but "after that"," they laughed, "he'll be coming here for all he's done as king, and we'll be waiting for him."

"Is there any way he can avoid it?" Nanda asked. "What's it to you?" they snapped.

"What is this place?" Nanda asked the Buddha. "Did you hear what they said?" The Buddha gently replied, "Come, Nanda."

As soon as they got back to the monastery, Nanda applied himself with great diligence, meditating and learning the Dharma. His fellow monks immediately noticed the change. They asked him what had happened. He began to tell them of his unearthly vision in space and the maidens he was promised he could win.

The monks soon began teasing him saying, "Nanda is bought with the promise of nymphs! Nanda is bought with a the promise of nymphs!" Nanda had no time to pay attention; he continued to assiduously meditate, wakeful and conscientious, now no longer oppressed by rapacious thoughts of Janapada Kalyani and rulership.

But after a time, the ridicule got to him. He eventually saw his motive for meditating as base. And renouncing desire, he attained arhatship and the bliss of nirvana, immediately releasing the Buddha from any promise of celestial bliss.

Nanda, having made quick progress and in no long time reaching full enlightenment freed of all mental defilements, was abashed that the rumors continued. From time to time the monks would come by and ask, "Nanda, do you want to go back to Janapada Kalyani, or do you prefer your beautiful nymphs instead?" He surprised them one day when he answered, "I'm no longer interested in any maiden earthly or celestial."

But seeing him continue to meditate day after day, the monks did not understand. They reported the matter to the Buddha, who called for Nanda:

"Nanda, the monks say you were bought with the promise of nymphs." Nanda was abashed to be asked about that motive. He stated that he was no longer interested in any such thing, implying his attainment of liberation.

The Buddha said, "Even before you said so, Nanda, it was clear. You have won freedom from all thoughts of lust, greed, and craving. You are now a noble member of the Sangha. The monks were embarrassed and astonished. They were filled with regret that they had not practiced, but instead occupied their time teasing Nanda about the fault they perceived in him, while ignoring their own faults.

Eventually, even Janapada Kalyani joined the Order of Nuns ("Bhikkuni Sangha") and became one of the "arahants" (saints).

*A Christmas Carol with visions of past, present, and future: the past on Earth, the present in Tavatimsa, and a future in the Apaya worlds.**The Buddha's mother, Maha Maya, passed away seven days after his birth. He was adopted and raised by King Suddhodana's other wife, Maha Maya's sister, Maha Pajapati Gotami. Pajapati Gotami went on to become ordained as the first Buddhist nun in history. King Suddhodana gained enlightenment. Meanwhile, Maha Maya had been reborn in a world in space called Tavatimsa, where the Buddha visited to teach the Abhidharma ("Higher Teaching) to her and others there. If people were generally aware of these facts, it would prevent criticism that the Buddha selfishly abandoned his family to pursue spirituality.

by Bhikkhuni Sudinna and Dharmachari Seven

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